Ambushes of Police: DOJ Guide For LEOs

Ambushes of Police: DOJ Guide For LEOs

Ambushes of Police: Environment, Incident Dynamics, and the Aftermath of Surprise Attacks Against Law Enforcement is an inclusive report published under the DOJ.

This report was a collaborative effort by multiple government and civilian organizations to understand how to deal with ambushes on LEOs.

The purpose of this report was for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and CNA to figure out how to prevent, respond to, and survive ambushes.

The purpose of this blog is to help further educate our LEOs on safety protocols that will help save their lives in an ambush attack.

What is COPS? 

COPS or Community Oriented Policing Service is a department inside the Department of Justice (DOJ) that uses analytics to provide LEOs with the information and tools to do their job well.

For those who get confused with the million acronyms we read every day, the DOJ is responsible for the F.B.I., D.E.A., A.T.F., and the U.S. Marshals.

That is thousands of officers the DOJ is directly responsible for. These officers deserve the latest info on protecting themselves in the line of duty.

The COPS report on ambush attacks is one of the most comprehensive and thoroughly done research papers published on this topic. There are 4 main topics that this report covers:

  1. Focus groups are led by active-duty LEOs that focus on defining ambushes, how to prepare and protect yourself against ambushes, and recovery strategies after an ambush.

  2. A quantitative analysis of environmental characteristics involving the increase in ambush attacks on officers.

  3. A quantitative analysis of survival rates for ambushed officers

  4. A qualitative and quantitative analysis of how law enforcement organizations are adapting and learning from past events.

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We must identify the term, so everyone has the same basic understanding of what constitutes an ambush.

I’ve seen many different definitions, but according to the DOJ, an ambush is a planned surprise attack on a human target. There are 4 separate characteristics of an ambush that can be present during an attack. 

  1. Suddenness is the first characteristic because every ambush is done very quickly, without notice to surprise the officer. The attack must be concluded very quickly.

  2. Surprise is the key aspect for an ambush because if you’re not ready, you have less chance to protect yourself. 

  3. Lack of Provocation means that the attacker was not provoked by the officer. This is common in most of the ambushes I’ve seen around the world, including the one in Arvada, Colorado just a few weeks ago. 

  4. Excessive force is the final characteristic, which means the assailant’s actions far exceed the officer’s response. I.E. walking up to an officer and shooting him/her without warning.

What Environmental Factors Impact Ambush Attacks on Police?

There are many misconceptions about the environmental factors that impact violence towards police officers. For example, it’s believed throughout the country that minority communities will be better served by minority officers.

However, according to the report, the DOJ concluded that there are more ambushes against officers who are the same race as the assailant (Pg. 24 Table 8a).

The DOJ calls this the race similarity index and it directly counters the argument of more diversity means less violence. 

I don’t want to get too into the environmental factors in this blog because I want to focus on how to prevent an ambush and how to survive an ambush.

However, according to the Bureau of Justice, some of the facts from this report, regarding the environment, are that women are targeted at a lower rate than men.

The more community policing initiatives are exercised, the more likely an ambush will occur. 

How Does Training Impact Ambushes on Police?

Unfortunately, the DOJ COPS report showed that training broken down to hours per year didn’t reduce the number of ambush attacks on officers (pg. 25).

I realize it might be hard for LEOs to grasp, but we don’t train to prevent attacks, we train to properly respond to attacks.

Even if hours of tactical training doesn’t cull ambush attacks on officers, it’s imperative to survival rates that you train as often as you can with the gear you roll out with every day. 

According to LEMAS, some of the most successful training for officers on the topic of ambush attacks is reality-based training in simulation applications.

For example, virtual reality scenarios and hands-on tactical training will improve the officer’s survival rate and response during an ambush. 

How Can Police Departments Reduce Ambush Attacks?

There are so many factors in each city, state, and jurisdiction across the country that impact violence towards police officers. For the sake of this article, I will discuss the 5 main causes of fewer ambush attacks on LEOs. 

  1. Progressive hiring requirements is a term thrown around in the media that basically means departments should hire more educated officers. For example, one of the most promising findings of this COPS report is officers who’ve earned at least a Bachelor's degree see 53% fewer ambushes. New Hires are the most at risk of an ambush because they’re green and need that experience in learning to read their environment. New-hire officers who received extensive training in conflict management skills (de-escalation) showed a 40% decrease in ambush attacks. One of the best things a police department can do to reduce ambush attacks on their officers is to hire based on progressive ideals and standards. 

  2. In-Car cameras help create a safer environment for officers. In-car cameras that are operational will cause many potential assailants to choose a softer target. According to the IACP, officers with in-car cameras saw a 65% decrease in ambush attacks. That is an astounding number for us to be concerned with. We need to ensure that all of our officers are equipped with working cameras in their vehicles. 

  3. Racial and ethnically diverse police departments don’t mean that there will be less violence towards officers. According to the DOJ, “If ambush assaults against the police are an indicator of significant strife and distrust between a police agency and its community, then our research finds that racial and ethnic representativeness does not impact such a relationship”

  4. The most common community policing strategies used across the country not only don’t stop violence against police, but could increase the likelihood of an ambush attack. However, According to LEMAS, there is no definitive research to support the preliminary findings regarding community policing. They believe that the report wasn’t able to include other relevant factors that involve the complexity of a community. Establishing core values that all street cops adhere to will most likely improve community relationships and reduce violence towards officers. In short, if police want to do better inside their communities, they need to adapt and change how they interact within their community. 

  5. Violence always leads to more violence in any culture on Earth. For example, if an area has a higher violent crime rate, it’s also more likely they will have an increase in violence towards police (Fridell et al. 2009; Jacobs and Carmichael 2002; Kaminski, Jefferis, and Gu 2003; Fridell and Pate 1995). Bigger cities with higher populations of uneducated citizens will normally have higher rates of violence.If police respond to a violent crime, there is a greater chance responding officers could be targeted. This is one reason it’s always better to ride with a partner instead of by yourself. According to the LEOKA, 62% of officers were driving alone when they were ambushed. 


There are more factors that are involved in violence towards officers than we can educationally discuss today.

However, we know that according to the LEOKA, tactical training, such as gun qualifications and defensive tactical training are imperative to survival.

For example, Officers who survived an ambush completed their defensive tactical training and pistol qualifications within 3 months of the attack.

Conducting training each month, especially for newer officers will improve the survival rate for officers. 

Just about 75% of all assailants in ambush attacks have criminal records with 42% of assailants being on parole at some point in their lives(Pg. 41, figure 10).

These statistics are not surprising for the officers reading this blog, but being able to use these stats to be better prepared is a matter of life and death. 

How Can ShotStop® Help?

Here at ShotStop® we take pride in not only providing you with the best ballistic protection, but we’re genuinely interested in providing LEOs with factual and relevant information.

As you read through this report and begin to absorb the information, hopefully you get that education and training are paramount to your success. 

When you train, it’s important that you train with the gear and weapons that you wear everyday.

For example, in the military, my unit trained 20 hours per week on weapons handling, shooting, and we always did everything in full battle-rattle.

Unfortunately, in 2007 my body armor weighed around 20 lbs with side plates and soft armor insert.

ShotStop® Level IV body armor is the lightest, thinnest, and most comfortable stand-alone ballistic plate on the planet.  


Just this month, ShotStop® has released our newest Level IV plate only 4.5 lbs per plate, but it’s still under 1” thick.

The first time I held this plate, I thought it was some prototype that couldn’t work, until I saw it take multiple rounds of 7.62x63 M2 AP  and didn't penetrate. 

The Level IV+HA plate will stop any bullet fired from a handheld rifle. With multiple curves to accommodate a variety of body shapes, the Duritium® Level IV+HA plate will fit better for men and women than any other Level IV plate made today.

Training with less than 10 lbs of body armor is something that is normally reserved for soft plate inserts.

When I was in, we called the Level IIIA plates, “second chance” vests because we knew it could give us a second chance if the gun was a pistol.

Training with our stand-alone Level IV+HA plate will give officers the best chance at survival over any other body armor.

Lightweight armor will allow you to keep your legs and core strong, instead of the weight zapping your energy like the 17 mile hike up Mount Evans that I just went on.

You’ll be able to maneuver and draw your pistol much faster with a ShotStop® plate, as well. 


As you can see in the COPS report, there is more information than we could fit in one blog. However, we’ll double back around and offer more insights from the DOJ for another blog down the road.

Preventing, responding, and surviving ambush attacks is a high priority for the DOJ and this report is the start of resolving this issue.

Training, education, and positively interacting within your community will help prevent further ambush attacks on officers.

Avoiding complacent and extensive training every week will help LEOs become more prepared and improve their survival rates. Good luck and thank you for your service. 

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